Anti-government protests in Iraq entered their third week yesterday amid fresh bloodshed, but leaders appeared to have closed rank around the country’s embattled premier.
More than a dozen demonstrators had died in the capital Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra within 24 hours, medical sources told AFP yesterday.
That pushed the death toll since the first protests erupted on October 1 closer to 300, according to an AFP tally kept as officials have stopped providing updated figures.
In Basra, seven protesters were killed in confrontations on Thursday and early yesterday, with security forces trying to reopen roads blocked by sit-ins, medical sources said.
For a week, protesters have cut access to Basra’s Umm Qasr port, which brings in most of Iraq’s food and medical imports.
In Baghdad, six people died facing off against security forces Thursday, a medical source told AFP.
Despite the violence, thousands again flocked to the capital’s main protest camp in Tahrir (Liberation) Square yesterday, including members of Iraq’s influential tribes.
“We sacrificed the blood of our tribe’s sons,” said one tribe member who had travelled from the southern city of Nasiriyah.
“We won’t stop until the government resigns.”
Throughout the night, loud blasts had echoed from around Tahrir as security forces tried to hold off protesters attempting to cross four bridges over the Tigris.
Even the use of tear gas has been deadly, with medics and rights groups documenting security forces firing canisters at point-blank range instead of up in the air to allow the gas to disperse.
The canisters have pierced protesters’ skulls and chests, with the United Nations saying at least 16 people had been killed that way as of November 5.